The Bangor Mall is popping into an leisure vacation spot

A rising variety of folks will cross by the doorways of the Bangor Mall within the coming weeks and months to take pleasure in theater, music, gaming and different leisure — points of interest which can be beginning to rival retail facilities on the mall.

Six years in the past, when the mall had a 98 p.c occupancy price, that might have appeared like a reasonably loopy concept within the retail-dominated constructing. However right now, with 22 empty storefronts and nationwide retailers closing brick-and-mortar shops, the concept of a theater firm opening or a comic book conference occurring in a shopping center is way from loopy. It’s beginning to change into the norm.

As we speak on the mall, Some Theatre Firm and Ten Bucks Theatre Firm each function areas. Sunshine’s Health Studio and Wellness Heart provides courses and private coaching. Bangor Comedian & Toy Con, after internet hosting its conference on the mall earlier this month, will now supply year-round programming in two storefront areas. Maineiac Manor, open throughout October and sporadically all year long, runs a haunted home within the former Hollister retailer, and native photographer Shane Grant opened a pictures and video studio. 

And by the tip of the 12 months, G-Power Journey Heart will open an leisure and gaming heart with laser tag, an arcade, axe throwing, bounce homes, reside music and comedy, and a bar and restaurant, in 4 leased storefronts within the wing of the mall the place Sears as soon as was.

All these companies and organizations are domestically owned and operated, and supply companies and experiences which have available in individual — not on-line. It’s a far cry from the mall’s increase time of the Nineties and 2000s, when clothes, shoe and residential items shops dominated the mall, virtually all of which had been nationwide retailers like Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and the Hole, all three of which closed lately.

“That is the course that the mall goes in — issues that individuals can’t do on-line. Issues that get you out of the home and round different folks. That’s what some malls nationwide are turning into,” stated Brian Plavnick, proprietor of G-Power, which he moved from its former location on Wilson Road in Brewer to the mall earlier this 12 months. “If malls don’t redefine themselves, they’ll shut fully. It’s a must to adapt.”

Brian Plavnick, pictured within the former Brewer location of G-Power Adventures, not lengthy earlier than he introduced he was shifting to the Bangor Mall. Credit score: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Requests for remark from each native mall managers and its New York-based proprietor, Namdar Realty Group, weren’t returned by Friday afternoon. It’s clear, nevertheless, that administration has pivoted from courting nationwide chains to encouraging native companies to maneuver into the mall — with an emphasis on experiential companies providing in-person companies and leisure.

Will Hesketh, who along with his enterprise associate Jay Cochran runs Bangor Comedian & Toy Con, stated that the liberty mall administration gave him when it got here to planning the conference, which was held two weeks in the past on the mall, additional satisfied him to make the mall his group’s everlasting residence.

“I feel the mall has an actual likelihood to change into a enjoyable little native leisure heart,” Hesketh stated. “I feel with what all of us completely different companies try to convey to the desk it a minimum of has a shot.”

The nationwide development of nationwide retailers closing brick-and-mortar retailers — a development hastened by the pandemic — has led to gutted malls throughout the nation. The Bangor Mall is not any exception, with greater than 20 shops closing prior to now 5 years. Upkeep on the power, each the precise constructing and the roads and parking heaps, has fallen behind. In 2019, the mall was offered to Namdar and two different buyers for simply $12.6 million, about half its assessed tax worth on the time of $24.7 million. The assessed worth has fallen much more since then, to $15.5 million for the present tax 12 months.

However there have been some indicators of progress. Among the main complaints made by each tenants and mall-goers are beginning to be addressed — particularly, the state of mall-owned roads, which lately have change into studded with deep potholes and damaged pavement. A number of sections of Bangor Mall Boulevard and a few parking areas have been repaved in current months, although mall administration declined to reply questions on whether or not paving would proceed by the remainder of the autumn.

The outside of Some Theatre Firm and Furnishings Mattress and Extra within the Bangor Mall. Credit score: Emily Burnham / BDN

The town of Bangor has tried to encourage nearly any form of non-retail growth in and across the mall, an effort that included new zoning guidelines to permit for mild industrial makes use of like laboratories and warehouses. Bangor’s financial growth director, Tanya Emery, didn’t essentially anticipate a lot of the expansion within the mall to take the type of leisure and experiential companies, however she stated she’s thrilled to see it occur.

“The work we did was actually to attempt to open up the probabilities for the mall, and take away any restrictions that could be there, in order many issues as attainable might be profitable there,” Emery stated. “What these companies would find yourself being, that was as much as the mall homeowners and the entrepreneurs that needed to present it a shot.”

Emery stated it’s a novel reversal for the Bangor Mall, which beforehand was an costly place to lease a storefront.

“The costs have come down sufficient the place it’s attainable {that a} native enterprise can open there, the place beforehand they could have thought, ‘Gee, I may by no means pay Victoria’s Secret lease,’” she stated. “What was Hollister is now a haunted home. Might you might have imagined that even simply three years in the past?”

Elaine Bard, inventive director of Some Theatre Firm, stated that the domestically owned companies within the mall have developed a way of camaraderie, and have ended up recruiting different new native companies to the mall.

“We sort of have our personal little household right here,” Bard stated. “All of us work collectively to assist convey the mall again to life. Now we have one another’s backs. And we’re all continually brainstorming about cool new issues we will do. We actually wish to see folks succeed.”

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